Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors. The ebook can be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner. Note that the ebook is still for sale for $3.99, but that price will go up to $5.99 on September 1, 2022.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

India’s new SSLV rocket fails on first launch attempt

Delayed years because of India’s panic over the Wuhan flu, the first launch of that country’s new Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) failed today when the rocket’s fourth stage apparently did not fire its engines properly.

The problem appeared to be the SSLV’s terminal stage, called the velocity trimming module (VTM). According to the launch profile, the VTM was supposed to have burnt for 20 seconds at 653 seconds after launch. However, it burnt for only 0.1 seconds, denying the rocket of the requisite altitude boost. Two satellites onboard the rocket – the primary EOS-2 Earth-observing satellite and the secondary AzaadiSAT student satellite – separated from the vehicle after the VTM burnt.

As a result, the two satellites were put in an orbit that was too low, which quickly decayed, destroying both.

Since this launch failed, I do not count it in the launch totals for 2022.

Considering that this was SSLV’s first launch, it was in that sense a test, and a failure therefore is not unexpected. India’s real problem is that the launch was delayed so long because of the Wuhan panic, thus allowing other competitors to catch up and pass India. While it is certain ISRO will try again, and eventually succeed, it will not get the market share it would have had, had it launched in 2020 as originally planned.

SpaceX raises another $250 million in investment capital

Capitalism in space: SpaceX in July raised $250 million in investment capital from five unnamed investors, bringing the total raised in 2022 to $2 billion.

Added to the amount brought in before this year, SpaceX has raised about $9 billion in private capital, most of which is focused on financing the development of Starship/Superheavy. When you add the $2.9 billion contract it won from NASA to develop Starship as a manned lunar lander, the company has raised about $12 billion to build this heavy lift rocket.

The numbers demonstrate several things. First, Wall Street is apparently very confident SpaceX will succeed in building the rocket, and then make a lot of money from it. Second, the numbers prove it shouldn’t cost $60 billion and two decades to design and build a heavy lift rocket, as NASA has done with its SLS rocket. SpaceX is doing it for less than a fifth of the cost, in a third of the time.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

 
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

FCC decides to expand its power in space

FCC: Now in charge of everything in space

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today voted to initiate what it calls a “Notice of Inquiry” to begin a policy review aimed at expanding its involvement and regulation of “space missions like satellite refueling, inspecting and repairing in-orbit spacecraft, capturing and removing debris, and transforming materials through manufacturing while in space.”

From the Federal Communications Commission’s press release [pdf]:

Today’s action continues this modernization effort as in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing capabilities – or “ISAM” – has the potential to build entire industries, create new jobs, mitigate climate change, and advance America’s economic, scientific, technological, and national security interests. ISAM missions take place on-orbit, in transit, or on the surface of space bodies. The FCC’s effort to open up this conversation dovetails with the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s recent release of a ISAM National Strategy.

This policy review is part of the FCC’s broad effort to update its rules for the new space age. For example, the FCC is taking significant steps to update its satellite rules. The FCC also adopted new rules to lay the groundwork for giving satellite launch companies ready access to spectrum for transmissions from space launch vehicles during pre-launch testing and space launch operations.

ISAM (In-space Servicing, Assembly and Manufacturing) refers to the final policy statement [pdf] of a working group in the National Science & Technology Council, created as part of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Biden administration. That policy statement outlined six strategies that the federal government needs to focus on to encourage American success in space. From its conclusion:
» Read more

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.


The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
 

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

Strange terrain southwest of Jezero Crater

Strange terrain near Jezero Crater

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on June 16, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows what the scientists have merely label “landforms.”

I instead call them strange. Clearly we are seeing exposed layering that surrounds the mesa in the middle of the image. This in turn suggests that the mesa top was once the surface of this whole region, and that region had been formed by the repeated placement of multiple sedimentary layers. Then, over time the surrounding terrain was eroded away, exposing those underlying layers.

Even so, some of the parallel lines do not appear to be layers, but striations etched into the ground. To get a better look, the white box marks the area covered by a full resolution close-up below.
» Read more

Pushback: Forsyth County school board in Georgia sued for censoring parents during public comment

The Forsyth County School Board

Bring a gun to a knife fight: The five elected members of the Forsyth County Board of Education in Georgia have now been sued for the repeated censoring of parents during their open comment period because the parents wished to read pornographic excerpts from books that school board had approved for use in school libraries.

The suit was filed by the Institute for Free Speech (IFS) for two parents, Alison Hair and Cindy Martin, as well as the independent parents organization called Mama Bears of Forsyth County.

Multiple district residents, including Mama Bears members and plaintiffs in the lawsuit Alison Hair and Cindy Martin, have used their time to read aloud from school library books they consider pornographic. Yet while these materials are available to kids in school, the Chair has cut off and banned speakers who read from them at Board meetings when he deems the language inappropriate or profane.

This catch-22 robs parents of the ability to confront board members with the very language they themselves consider inappropriate for children, such as graphic descriptions of sex acts. After plaintiff Alison Hair attempted to read one such passage at a March 15 board meeting, she received a letter signed by every member of the Board of Education prohibiting her from participating in any future meetings until she provides a written guarantee that she will abide by the Chair’s directives. The Board, however, cannot require that citizens sacrifice their First Amendment rights as a precondition for participating in meetings, the lawsuit explains. [emphasis mine]

You can read the complaint here [pdf]. The facts of the case are very clear: the board members, led by board chairman Wesley McCall, have been abusing their power to silence any criticism. They are also doing whatever they can to prevent parents from revealing the queer and obscene content contained in school library books that the board members have approved for children, as well as creating rules that make removing these books practically impossible. From the complaint:
» Read more

Leaving Earth cover

There are now only 6 copies left of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. After I sell one more, I will be raising the price substantially. Thus, if you want to get an autographed copy of this rare collector's item for only $100, plus $5 shipping, now is the time to buy. Once I sell one more book and only have five copies left, the price goes up to $150 (plus shipping for the next two.

 

To get your copy while the getting is good, please send a $105 check (which includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to
 

Behind The Black, c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

 

Leaving Earth is also available as an inexpensive ebook!

 

Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel, can be purchased as an ebook everywhere for only $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 

If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big oppressive tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Winner of the 2003 Eugene M. Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society.

"Leaving Earth is one of the best and certainly the most comprehensive summary of our drive into space that I have ever read. It will be invaluable to future scholars because it will tell them how the next chapter of human history opened." -- Arthur C. Clarke

Curiosity celebrates ten years on Mars

Curiosity's location in Gale Crater

Sometime today the rover Curiosity will celebrate its tenth anniversary on Mars. The oblique graphic of Gale Crater above, first released by the science team shortly before landing in 2012, has been further annotated with a red line to show the rover’s journey since then. As noted by Scott VanBommel, Planetary Scientist at Washington University, today on the science team’s blog:

As we the science and engineering teams have aged this last decade, so has Curiosity. The toll of ten years and nearly 28.5 km [17.7 miles] of Mars driving shows with every MAHLI wheel imaging activity, with less energy available for a plan, and with aging mechanisms. This is the life of a Mars rover. Spirit and Opportunity were no different, yet they persisted and paved the way scientifically and technologically for the rovers of today. Curiosity has made numerous scientific discoveries during these ten years, emphasized by the over 500 science team publications, with many more ahead as we continue our ascent and exploration of Gale crater and Mount Sharp.

I look forward to the next ten years.

Despite that aging, Curiosity’s general condition appears quite excellent, with its wheels the greatest concern but generally holding up. Based on the last ten years, the rover is likely to remain operational for at least ten more years, if not longer.

In the more immediate future, the rover is only days away from getting its first good look down into Gediz Valles, that canyon on the graphic above that it has been traveling towards since day one.

A good review of five of Curiosity’s biggest discoveries using its sample analysis instrument can be found here.

Virgin Galactic once again delays commercial suborbital operations

Capitalism in space: In releasing its quarterly report, Virgin Galactic yesterday revealed that it is once again delaying the start of commercial suborbital operations, pushing back from the first quarter of 2023 to the second quarter.

In an earnings call, company executives said that the latest delay was not directly related to supply chain and staffing problems it blamed for the previous delay. Instead, refurbishment work on its WhiteKnightTwo plane, VMS Eve, was taking longer than planned. “The driver is around the amount of time it is taking us to accomplish the work scope on Eve,” said Michael Colglazier, chief executive of Virgin Galactic. “We did not plan the full amount of time that’s been needed to get this work accomplished.”

Company officials also said they are shifting its customer emphasis, now focusing much more on “private and government researchers.” Let me translate: The public is not buying tickets, so Virgin Galactic hopes to convince the government to keep it afloat instead.

I predict this company will likely never fly any customers, and it appears the stock agrees, with the stock plunging in value, from $8.25 to $6.95 in less than a day.

Astra cancels all launches with its Rocket 3.3 rocket

Capitalism in space: Astra yesterday announced that it has canceled all further launches with its Rocket-3.3 rocket, and will instead focus on developing a larger version, dubbed Rocket-4, which it says will begin test flights in 2023.

The company says that it will no longer fly the Rocket 3.3 and move on to its larger Rocket 4 vehicle that it announced in May. One change is that the payload performance of the new rocket has doubled to 600 kilograms. Kemp didn’t disclose details of the design change other than an upgrade to its upper stage engine. Rocket 3.3, by contrast, had a payload capacity of no more than 50 kilograms.

“The feedback that we were getting from some of the larger constellation operators was that satellites were getting larger,” he said. Discontinuing the existing Rocket 3.3, he said, allowed the company to focus its resources on the new launch system, including increasing its payload capacity.

Essentially, Astra has left the field and is at present no longer an operational smallsat rocket company. It is also likely that its announced schedule for its upgraded rocket will not be met. Thus, expect customers to shift to other launch providers able to launch satellites, such as Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit.

Not surprisingly, the company’s stock plunged soon after this announcement.

Conscious Choice now available as either a hardback or a paperback

Conscious Choice

I am proud to announce that in addition to the ebook that came out last year, print editions of my new book, Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, are now available. Check out sales pages at book vendors like Amazon and Barnes & Noble if you are interested.

I am also selling autographed copies of these print editions, directly at discount, $24.95 for the hardback and $14.95 for the paperback, plus $5 shipping. Email me at zimmerman at nasw dot org if you want to buy a copy!

The ebook is still for sale for $3.99, but that price will go up to $5.99 on September 1, 2022.

“I really do believe that everybody needs to get a copy of Conscious Choice. It is that important a book. It is one of the most important books given today’s social upheaval.”
Robert Pratt, long time radio host

SpaceX launches South Korea’s Danuri lunar orbiter

SpaceX today successfully launched South Korea’s Danuri lunar orbiter, also called the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter.

The first stage completed its sixth flight, landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic. The fairings completed their fourth flight.

Danuri is now on its way to the Moon, with a planned arrival in lunar orbit on December 16, 2022. It carries six instruments, one of which was developed by NASA. The spacecraft, while designed to study the Moon, is primarily a technology test mission laying the groundwork for more sophisticated interplanetary South Korean missions. More information about the mission can be found here.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

34 SpaceX
28 China
10 Russia
6 Rocket Lab
5 ULA

The U.S. now leads China 49 to 28 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 49 to 45. With this launch American private enterprise has now surpassed the entire launch total for all of 2021, and has the most launches for the U.S. since 1967, when it completed successfully 57 launches.

China launches “reusable experimental spacecraft”

According to the official Chinese press, China today successfully used its Long March 2F rocket to place into orbit a “reusable experimental spacecraft.”

To say the information provided was terse is to be extravagant. This is it:

After a period of in-orbit operation, the spacecraft will return to its scheduled landing site in China. It will test reusable technologies and in-orbit service technologies as planned during its flight, providing technological support for the peaceful use of space.

It appears, based on the size of the rocket, that this spacecraft is likely a copy of Boeing’s X-37B.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

33 SpaceX
28 China
10 Russia
6 Rocket Lab
5 ULA

The U.S. still leads China 48 to 28 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 48 to 45.

These numbers should change within the next half hour, as SpaceX is about to launch another rocket.

Glacial flows pushing out through a Martian crater rim

Wider view of 6-mile-wide crater
Click for full image.

Today’s cool image once again illustrates how Mars is far from a waterless planet. Instead, there is strong evidence that water ice can be found across most of the Red Planet’s surface, excluding the equatorial regions lower than 30 degrees latitude.

The photo to the right was taken on September 11, 2021 by the wide view context camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows a 6-mile-wide unnamed crater on Mars, located at 35 degrees south latitude, with what appears to be a glacier in its interior, flowing to the southwest towards several breaches in the crater’s southwest rim. Several of those breaches now sit higher than the flow, suggesting that the glacier itself was once higher and flowed out of those gaps. Now the level has dropped, and the only place the glacier exits the crater is the central gap at the center of the white rectangle.

That white rectangle marks the area covered by a recent MRO high resolution image, taken on March 29, 2022 and cropped and reduced to post below.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Supreme Court Justice Thomas forced to quit as lecturer at GWU

Clarence Thomas: Banned at amazon
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas: driven out
as a lecturer at George Washington University

Blacklists are back and our future law students love ’em: Faced with a petition signed by 11,000 individuals demanding he be fired, Supreme Court Justice Thomas has resigned as a lecturer at George Washington University (GWU).

Thomas has been a lecturer at the school since 2011, but has now been removed as faculty from its website. His decision not to return to teaching comes in the wake of protests against conservative supreme court judges following the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

The school was hit by a petition calling for the removal of Thomas, with more than 11,000 signatories. But George Washington University is home to just 1,600 students, and bosses there defended Thomas, insisting he was entitled to his views. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words illustrate something significant: The bulk of the petition’s signers were not from George Washington University. However, though the school had apparently supported Thomas during this affair, we do not know how many of its 1,600 students signed the petition. What we do know is that there did not seem to be much public support for him from those students.

It is hard to fathom any law student not wanting to meet in person and hear the legal opinions of a Supreme Court justice, no matter where he or she stands on the political spectrum. To try to block such lectures reveals a shocking close-mindedness and hostility to rational thought. The language of the petition illustrates this, filled with false statements, ad hominen attacks, and complete intolerance of other points of view:
» Read more

Axiom signs deal with New Zealand

Capitalism in space: The private space station company Axiom has now signed a deal with New Zealand to permit its citizens to propose and fly experiments on future Axiom missions, both to ISS and to Axiom’s own space station, scheduled for launch beginning in ’24.

This is the fourth international commercial agreement Axiom has signed since May, with Italy, Hungary, and the UAE the signatories in the previous deals. The UAE deal also included the launch of a UAE astronaut to ISS for a six month flight.

Axiom hopes to launch its first module to ISS in ’24, with later modules eventually allowing it to undock its section to fly as an independent station when ISS is retired.

Environmentalists opposed to Starship at Boca Chica appeal dismissal of their lawsuit

Environmentalists from the Sierra Club and one Texas Indian tribe have now appealed the dismissal of their lawsuit aimed at blocking further tests or launches of Starship and Superheavy by SpaceX at its Boca Chica facility.

The Sierra Club and the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of South Texas jointly appealed the 445th District Court’s decision July 7 to dismiss a lawsuit concerning SpaceX testing of its next-generation Starship vehicle closing nearby Boca Chica Beach, the coalition said July 28. In the dismissal, Judge Gloria Rincones argued there is “no private right of enforcement” concerning the beach access, according to KRGV.com (opens in new tab). The dismissal took place over the appellants’ protests that closing the beach violates the Texas state constitution, along with access rights by traditional groups.

The Sierra Club’s Brownsville organizer, Emma Guevara, stated the appeal is taking place because the beach is closed weekly to allow “a billionaire [to] launch deadly rockets near homes and wildlife.”

Citing a fireball that briefly and unexpectedly engulfed Starship during testing July 12, Guevera said her family was “forced” to hear the noise, which “launched without any warning for the public.” [emphasis mine]

My my, what a horror! I suppose everyone must stop what they are doing because Guevera and his family might be inconvenienced. And who cares if the lawsuit prevents thousands of south Texas citizens from having jobs and a thriving economy? It is more important Guevera doesn’t have to hear loud noises.

The lawsuit claims that allowing SpaceX to periodically close access to the nearest beach violates the state’s constitution, despite laws passed by both the local and state legislatures allowing for these closures.

Next private SpaceX manned targeting December launch

Capitalism in space: SpaceX is now planning to launch in December the next private manned Dragon orbital mission, dubbed Polaris Dawn, and led by billionaire Jared Isaacman, who led the previous private Inspiration4 mission in September 2021.

Polaris Dawn is the first of three separate crewed launches, all of them funded by Isaacman. This first effort will see Isaacman flying a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft alongside Sarah Gillis, Anna Menon and Scott Poteet. (Both Gillis and Menon work at SpaceX.) The second launch aims to use a Dragon while the third is scheduled as the first crewed mission for Starship, SpaceX’s next-generation spacecraft.

…Among the mission’s aims is the first spacewalk, or extravehicular activity (EVA), of a private astronaut. The crew will use SpaceX-developed EVA suits for the effort. Crew Dragon will be depressurized for the spacewalk in a similar way that NASA’s Gemini capsules were in the 1960s, requiring all crew members to wear suits designed for a vacuum environment.

By not flying to ISS, Isaacman and SpaceX avoid the high fees NASA charges as well as its extensive requirements.

By remaining in orbit however the length of the mission will be limited to only a few days, rather than weeks. Thus, it underlines the growing need for private commercial space stations, not controlled by the government.

Lucy science team ends attempt to deploy solar array

Lucy's planned journey
Lucy’s planned mission, the yellow dot indicating approximately
its present position. Click for full image.

The Lucy science team has decided to end further attempts to fully deploy one of the spacecraft’s two solar arrays, leaving it just short of fully deployed.

On seven occasions in May and June, the team commanded the spacecraft to simultaneously run the primary and backup solar array deployment motors. The effort succeeded, pulling in the lanyard, and further opening and tensioning the array.

The mission now estimates that Lucy’s solar array is between 353 degrees and 357 degrees open (out of 360 total degrees for a fully deployed array). While the array is not fully latched, it is under substantially more tension, making it stable enough for the spacecraft to operate as needed for mission operations.

The press release announcing this decision is horribly written. First, it buries this decision to the release’s last three paragraphs so that it can rave about the brilliance of Lucy’s engineers and scientists in solving the overall problem. Second, it never actually states that this is the decision that has been made. It implies it.

Regardless, it appears the engineers are satisfied that the almost fully deployed array will hold its position for the rest of the mission. They have decided that the risk of trying to fully deploy it is greater than the risk of having it slightly open.

ULA launches Space Force reconnaissance satellite

Capitalism in space: ULA’s Atlas-5 rocket early today successfully placed a Space Force reconnaissance satellite into orbit, designed to detect the heat signatures of incoming missiles.

At this moment ULA has only 21 Atlas-5 rockets in its inventory, after which the rocket will be fully replaced with the not-yet launched Vulcan.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

33 SpaceX
27 China
10 Russia
6 Rocket Lab
5 ULA

American private enterprise now leads China 48 to 27 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 48 to 44.

The American total of 48 matches the total launches all last year.

China launches three satellites with Long March 4B rocket

China early on August 4, 2022 (China time) successfully placed three satellites in orbit, including a climate satellite it claims will do “carbon monitoring, survey and monitoring of terrestrial ecology and resource, major national ecological projects monitoring and evaluation.” No information at all was released about the other two satellites, both of which were probably cubesats.

This launch actually occurred prior to the Electron launch from Rocket Lab.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

33 SpaceX
27 China
10 Russia
6 Rocket Lab
4 ULA

American private enterprise still leads China 47 to 27 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 47 to 43.

Rocket Lab launches second NRO surveillance smallsat in three weeks

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab today successfully used its Electron rocket to place its second National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) surveillance smallsat into orbit in just over three weeks.

For Rocket Lab, this was the sixth launch in 2022, which matches its previous annual high, achieved in both 2019 and 2020. It should easily top that record before the year is out.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

33 SpaceX
26 China
10 Russia
6 Rocket Lab
4 ULA

American private enterprise now leads China 47 to 26 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 47 to 42.

Two more American launches are scheduled in the next day. If both are successful, the U.S. will have exceeded its entire launch total for 2021 (48) in only a little more than a half year, and completed the most successful launches since 1967.

The second half of the year should actually be as active as the first half, with three more American smallsat rocket companies (Firefly, Relativity, and ABL) pushing hard for their first successful launches before the year is out, thus joining the already operational smallsat rocket companies Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit, and Astra.

Today’s quick space links

Some quick links, provided by Jay:

Where to get legal help if you have been blacklisted by today’s control freaks

As I have been chronicling the left’s shameless effort to blacklist, blackball, censor, and destroy its opposition during the past year and a half, I have also begun to assembly a list of non-profit law firms that are dedicated to fight this oppression, and have been increasingly successfully in winning their cases.

It seems appropriate therefore to provide that list to the public. Several blacklisted readers of these columns have noted in comments that they wish to also sue, and I would like to help them do so in every way possible. The following list, though obviously not all inclusive, describes what appear to be the most active and successful non-profit law firms presently winning first amendment cases nationwide. (Note too that the ACLU is not on the list, as that organization a long time ago abandoned its foundational goal of protecting free speech and has instead become an agent acting to increase the left’s power over ordinary citizens.)

In choosing among these law firms, make sure you review their entire website and the many cases they are handling. Some firms might be less appropriate for your situation, and it is necessary on your part to do the due diligence to figure this out.
» Read more

NASA imposes new rules for any private launches to ISS

NASA has added several new rules for any private launches to ISS, now requiring that each flight include at least one experienced former NASA astronaut.

From the actual procurement notice:

NASA is also in the process of finalizing details associated with a new requirement that upcoming private astronaut missions include a former flown NASA (U.S.) government astronaut as the mission commander. A former NASA astronaut provides experienced guidance for the private astronauts during pre-flight preparation through mission execution. Based on their past on-orbit and NASA experience, the PAM commander provides a link between the resident ISS expedition crew and the private astronauts and reduces risk to ISS operations and PAM/ISS safety. Specific details of the requirement will be documented in future solicitations, as well as in updated documentation and in the solicitation technical library.

The new rules also require the companies to submit their research plans twelve months before launch, as well as reserve a longer time for the private passengers to adapt to weightlessness on the station before initiating that work.

The changes appear to make sense, based on the experience of the first passenger flight of Axiom sent up to ISS earlier this year. However, their existence will likely encourage the arrival of the private space stations in order to break free from NASA’s rules.

Momentus has now deployed seven of ten customer payloads from its Vigoride tug

Capitalism in space: Despite technical communications issues after deployment of the first test flight of its Vigoride orbital tug, Momentus yesterday announced that has now deployed seven of ten customer payloads.

This announcement is somewhat of a surprise, as in June the company had said it would not be able to deploy anymore payloads due to the communications and solar panel problems Vigoride was experiencing.

The update also noted that the company is incorporating changes in its next Vigoride tug, scheduled to launch in November.

The scattered debris from Perseverance’s landing, now being tracked by the rover

Perseverance's parachute, as photographed by Ingenuity
Click for full image.

A piece of string on Mars
Click for full image.

The Perseverance science team today posted a detailed update on the various pieces of debris that both the rover and the Ingenuity helicopter have been tracking since both landed on Mars in February 2021.

Some of the EDL [entry, descent, landing] hardware broke into smaller pieces when it impacted the surface. These pieces of EDL debris have been spotted in images of the Hogwallow Flats region, a location roughly 2 km to the northwest of the EDL hardware crash zones. As of Sol 508 (July 24, 2022), the operations team has catalogued roughly half a dozen pieces of suspected EDL debris in this area. Some of these EDL debris are actively blowing around in the wind. So far, we’ve seen shiny pieces of thermal blanket material, Dacron netting material that is also used in thermal blankets, and a stringlike material that we conclude to be a likely piece of shredded Dacron netting.

To the right are two of the most interesting examples. The top image shows the parachute and associated equipment from the landing, taken by Ingenuity during a flight in April 2022. That image, when compared with an earlier picture taken from orbit, showed that the wind of Mars, though incredibly weak, had been able to shift the parachutes edges.

The second image shows the string that the rover photographed on July 12, 2022, and had blown away four days later when Perseverance re-photographed this site.

Today’s update notes that the area in the crater they have dubbed Hogwallow Flats “appears to be a natural collecting point for windblown EDL debris.” The flats are an area at the foot of the delta that flowed into Jezero Crater in the past, and is an area where Perseverance has been traveling most recently.

That the wind has been able to move small pieces so effectively is I think somewhat of a surprise. That it is gathering the material against the crater’s western cliffs suggests the prevailing winds here blow to the west.

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